Wanted branding experts

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sunday Biz, October 4, 2009

GIVEN THE HEIGHTENED COMPETITION in today’s global business environment, business owners know that they need to go into branding if they want to enter into licensing and franchising deals and win consumer loyalty.

And yet, few actively engage in the business strategy that requires sustained investments in resources, funding, time and people.

And if they do go into branding, many usually do it the wrong way. They forge ahead minus advice from brand, research, creative and media experts who have the right analytical and decision-making tools at their disposal.

Not branding

Branding is an expertise and not a commodity service. That expertise can only come from years of strategic experience and practice, acquired knowledge and exposure in the same and related field of discipline as well as the added value of access to networks and partners built through time who can help bring in efficiency, speed and sustainability in managing brands. Branding require deep-thinking and a well-thought out strategy that gets validated or provokes new ideas and concepts in research and is eventually translated or executed in creative campaigns, media, special events and other formats that consumers see or experience. It is never the other way around.

Among the many sins of attempting to brand without strategic expertise include:

  • Dealing with creative agencies or free-lance creative talents without a firm brand strategy validated by research and minus the consumer insights that creative agencies use to craft executions that compel consumers to buy products and services;
  • Working with creative and media partners inept in handling and executing customer insights into sustainable creative campaigns;
  • Relying on the creative and media output to provide the strategic framework and not the other way around;
  • Merely copying what competitors are doing in terms of messaging, creative and media implementation;
  • Clinching media contracts without proper assessment of the strategic fit between the brand and the media partner; basing decisions largely on general rating and ranking and demographic data not knowing that a psychographic and target-market specific data can change or modify the media plan largely. Further, media investments are triggered by close relationships and promo deals rather than strategic media decisions resulting in non-sustainable, one-time only media deals;
  • Believing that name mentions can adequately build the brand;
  • Absence of an expert brand strategist on the team. Often, the role of the brand expert is viewed as a commodity and one that a business owner can assume.

How to brand strategically

Having identified the many sins of branding without strategy, following are the ways by which to achieve branding grounded on strategy:

  • Engage in insight mining research activities that intend to understand consumers deeply;
  • Work with creative partners with ability to capture consumer insights into the brand’s communications campaign;
  • Collaborate with media agencies that objectively present options based on a recent-dated media data;
  • Bring in temporarily, an objective, third-party experienced brand strategist to work with Board Level to set sustainable brand directions;
  • Engage the board level and business owners in strategic work and impress upon them the importance of a sustained involvement.

The writer is the Strategic Brand Management Course Program Director at the Asian Institute of Management and is the author of the best selling branding book, Color Folders In The Mind: A Branding Story, available at Powerbooks, Bestseller and National Bookstore outlets.